Welcome to fall along the NC Coast. The temperature may reach the 80's one day and only the mid-60's the next. Forcing the cooling trend, our predominant winds have swung from the warmer southwest breezes of summer to the cooler northeast breezes of fall. The water is cooling off also and the fish are getting active. The water temperature in the sounds has dipped into the upper 60's and is down to the lower 70's in the surf. It's a little cool to go swimming, but just about right for fishing.
Once again we have a little blow forecast for Friday, with southwesterly winds at 15 to 20 knots below Cape Lookout and 20 to 25 knots above. That becomes northerly on Saturday, with a cool day, and the winds beginning calmer at 10-15 knots subsiding even more during the day. Sunday the winds stay slight, but switch back to the south and warm the day some and on Monday the breeze creeps back up to 15 knots and above.
I spent a morning on the water with Capt. Dave Dietzler last week and had a great time. We caught some larger slot (and maybe just over) red drum, flounder, black drum and I managed not to hook a big trout that gulped a 5inch croaker. We left from the Morehead City waterfront, fished until about 1:00 P.M. and never put the boat on plane. It was a great morning of fishing and company. You guess where we were.
I also fished alone on Sunday out of Southport. I found some live shrimp and changed my plan from drum to trout and headed out. It wasn't an outstanding day, but I had enough action to keep me occupied. I found several nice trout, some red drum, black drum, bluefish and general bait thieves. I did get the boat on plane for this trip, but only burned about 4-5 gallons of gas for the whole day.
Not only are there red drum scattered through most of our marshes, they have moved to the inlets and the surf. Many times they are just out of reach of all but the longest casters, but from a boat you can run the beaches and cast to the schools you locate. A red tint in the water is a dead giveaway to a school of drum.
The bars in most of our shallow inlets have been holding drum. On calm days standing on the leaning post or console may give you enough extra height to spot them. When you can cast to fish you have spotted, they respond to many lures well. Soaking cut mullet or menhaden in the sloughs between the bars is a good alternative when waiting for them.
Flounder fishing is still going strong. With this latest drop in water temperature, the flounder should begin moving towards the inlets. Finger mullet and an assortment of jigs have been producing well. There are also good numbers of flounder being caught at the nearshore artificial reefs.
Speckled trout fishing is good! I don't know how to say it any better. Many places have had a larger than usual shrimp hatch this year and the trout are hanging around creek mouths, marsh points and along the edges of deeper channels waiting to ambush their next meal. They are also gathering around the jetties at Cape Lookout, Fort Macon, Radio Island, behind Shackleford Banks, Masonboro Inlet and Little River Inlet.
Last week wasn't a banner week, but there have been some gray trout in the Morehead City Turning Basin and under the Atlantic Beach and Radio Island Bridges for a few weeks. Last week they bit better, just out Beaufort Inlet and down to the Dead Tree Hole. They have also been biting at Dallas Rock, the first boxcars off Topsail, Johns Creek Rock, and the rocks off Fort Fisher. They should be showing up on the WOFES and the nearshore artificial reefs off Brunswick County at any time.
The spot run is still sporadic. They are good at one place or another for a day or two and then move to somewhere else. The water temperature is finally getting right for a really big run. It could be this week. Right now they aren't really thick, but patience is usually rewarded with a good catch. It is a matter of time and tide working together and an evening high tide is usually best.
There have also been some good pier catches of spots from the piers. Other catches on the piers include Spanish mackerel, pompano, bluefish, flounder, sea mullet, red drum, black drum, croakers, gray trout, speckled trout and a couple of kings down south.
This will be the last weekend for Sportsmans Pier in Atlantic Beach. Pier owner David Bradley has announced the pier will close on Sunday, October 22. He has planned a "Customer Appreciation Day" on Sunday, where everyone fishes for free. All the pier's equipment will be auctioned off the next Saturday, October 28.
We continue to see Spanish mackerel, but the cooling water will soon have them moving south.
With the cooling water, more false albacore are arriving. They are currently scattered from around the Trawler Buoy to Shackleford Banks off Morehead City and around the Liberty Ship off Wrightsville Beach.
The fall king mackerel run got another jump start last weekend with several nice catches from east of Cape Lookout. Mid-October is when the kings usually move in on the Cape Lookout Jetty and take over at the Horseshoe off Southport. With the water temperature cooling, this could begin at any time.
The offshore boats continue to find good catches of wahoo and dolphin. There are some tuna to the north, off Hatteras and Oregon Inlet. As the water cools the better catches are concentrating on the first warm temperature break, just inshore of the Gulf Stream.
The fall grouper bite is going strong. The headboats, charter boats and private boats are all reporting good catches of gags, scamps and reds. Beeliners, black sea bass, triggerfish and grunts are also in the mix.
The winning kings for both the Little River (S.C.) and Topsail King Mackerel Tournaments came from east of Cape Lookout. Bobby Schoenfield and the crew of the Lured Away made the long run from Little River to AR 285 to catch an upper 20's king on Friday and a 52 pounder on Saturday. They won both the Southern Kingfish Association Pro Tournament and the Rumble in the Jungle King Mackerel Tournament. Brant McMullan and the Ocean Isle Fishing Center crew caught a 45 pound king to win the Topsail King Mackerel Tournament. The tales vary, but McMullan and crew were either at Drum Inlet or AR 285.
The CCA Inside and Out Tournament had a lot of divisions. The winners are: Trout-Alex reeves-2.8; Flounder-Chuck Laughridge-3.75; False albacore-Marty Moore-17 releases; Red drum-Matt Lamb-54 releases; Wahoo-Charlie Smith-76.85; Dolphin-Harris Huddle-3.7; King mackerel-W.F. Bulow-36.0; No billfish or tuna were caught.
Congratulations to all the successful tournament fishermen.
This weekend's tournaments include the Calcutta Wahoo Challenge (252-241-3348, www.calcuttawahoo.com) from Morehead City, Wrightsville Beach King Mackerel Tournament (910-256-4430, www.wbkmt.com) from Wrightsville Beach, Cedar Point King Mackerel Tournament (252-342-3589) in Cape Carteret and the opening of the Gordie McAdams Speckled Trout Surf Fishing Tournament (252-354-6350, www.emeraldisle-nc.org/eiprd) in Emerald Isle.